Artist Details

Oscar Levant

Oscar Levant would probably be better known by people born after the 1950s, if only he'd been a little less talented, or at least able to concentrate on fewer aspects of a life in the public eye. A composer, pianist, actor, author, and "personality," he managed to achieve a fair amount of fame in each of these fields -- though mostly the last from 1945 onward -- but never enough in any of them to last long beyond the time of his death in 1972. Born into a musical family in Pittsburgh, PA, in 1906, he revealed himself to be a piano prodigy at an early age and, after initial lessons from an older brother, was trained by Martin Messler (a graduate of the Leipzig Conservatory) from age seven -- Levant's early recitals (which began at age eight) included works by Beethoven, Bach, Chopin, Schumann, and Liszt. The death of Levant's father when he was 16 led his mother to take him to New York City, where he became a student of Zygmunt Stojowski and played for Ignace Jan Paderewski, the renowned Polish pianist (and later statesman).

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